Only the most fervent Maryland Terrapins fan would even entertain the idea of a win this weekend when the Terrapins host the tenth ranked team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles. I obviously like the Terrapins, but I am realistic in my approach to covering this team. That is to say, I am fully aware that the Terrapins are incredibly unlikely to notch one in the win column and pour water on the Seminoles hopes of clinching a spot in the ACC Championship game. Still, it is worth looking at how these teams match up, in hopes of finding a mere sliver of upset potential.
Florida State Offense vs Maryland Defense
Well, it isn’t pretty folks. The Seminoles have scored fewer than 30 points only twice this season: once in a loss against North Carolina State that halted their national title aspirations, and the other time was last week when they dropped 28 on Virginia Tech. That places them fourth in the nation in points for, and without a doubt gives them a steep edge against the Terrapins defense. Led by Senior quarterback E.J. Manuel, the Seminoles have a fantastic passing attack that has given them 19 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions on the season. But the thing is, Manuel isn’t the only reason this offense is so potent.
The real danger lies in their running game, which is led by Sophomore running back James Wilder Jr., who has 449 yards and 8 touchdowns on the year. Wilder Jr. is also averaging 5.8 yards per carry on the season, but only had 10 yards against Virginia Tech last week. Even with the loss of Senior RB Chris Thompson, the Seminoles still have plenty of ammunition in the running game (which, at times, has struggled). Between Thompson, Wilder Jr, Devonta Freeman, Lonnie Pryor, and the rest of the running back by committee, the ‘Noles have notched 29 touchdowns on the season just on the ground. It seems highly unlikely that they will struggle this game against the Terrapins defense.
Meanwhile, the Terps are banged up on defense having lost Darin Drakeford and Demetrius Hartsfield for the year, the former was the leading sack man for the unit and the latter was the leading tackler. These aren’t good things for a team that is going up against perhaps their toughest opponent yet. If the results against Clemson were a 30 point stomping, why would anyone believe the results would be different this time around?
They could be, but it is all contingent on E.J. Manuel going through some struggles, as he is prone to do at times. Manuel has completed under 60% of his passes for the last two games, and has cooled off considerably from his spectacular performances earlier in the year. If the Terrapins can harass Manuel a bunch, then things could get interesting because he clearly does not do well with lots of pressure. It is the sole reason why Virginia Tech was able to keep the game so close last game. Without pressure, the Terps are doomed from the start. With it, things get interesting.
Maryland Offense vs Florida State Defense
What can you say about the Terrapins offense that hasn’t already been said. They are banged up at almost every position and starting a linebacker at quarterback, for starters. Their leading rusher, Wes Brown, is out for the season after having surgery on a banged up shoulder. Their best wide receiver, Stefon Diggs, was unable to play last week and likely won’t be seeing action in this game, either. They also have a plethora of other receivers who won’t be playing this week, either. Needless to say, it isn’t good.
The lone bright spot that happened last week against Clemson was Brandon Ross rushing for 100 yards. He was virtually the entire offense, as Shawn Petty finished with a total of 43 yards (rushing and passing combined). It is that awful, but Brandon Ross keeps the flame of hope alive. If Ross can shred Florida State’s defense, then that means the clock can be controlled and the Terrapins can keep the ‘Noles offense off the field.
Unfortunately, I am highly dubious of the chances that Brandon Ross repeats against the Seminoles this Saturday, given that their defense is one of the best in the nation. That unit is led by defensive end Bjoern Werner, who also happens to be a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy. On the season he has eight sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and a forced fumble, and is fully expected to be a machine against the Terrapins. Werner completely changes the dynamic on defense because he can get to anyone, anywhere, with his athleticism. Petty will likely struggle getting away from him, and if he does then this game will be a long one, to be sure.
The only obvious intangible is that it is the Terrapins final home game of the season and the Seminoles don’t play well on the road. All of their closest games have come away from Doak, and the Terrapins could get lucky and catch the Seminoles sleeping on them. I’m not predicting that happens, but you never know!